Michigan's teen machine comes of age Freshmen stand test of overtime, Ohio State, 75-71

March 30, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Only at the end, as the raucous celebration erupted around them, did Jalen Rose and Chris Webber look like freshmen yesterday.

No sooner had Michigan secured a spot in next week's Final Four than Rose and Webber collapsed to the floor, a pair of giddy 19-year-olds looking for a place to share a private moment.

And the moment truly was theirs after a 75-71, overtime victory over Ohio State in the NCAA Southeast Regional final.

Webber, who had 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots, held four fingers in the air and kept repeating the words "Final Four" to Michigan fans in Rupp Arena.

Rose, who had 20 points -- including six in overtime -- and was named the regional's most outstanding player, stayed down on the floor for several minutes before joining the celebration. When he finally got up, he wore a look of disbelief.

"I don't know how I feel yet," Rose said after making a date with Cincinnati in the national semifinals Saturday.

"We're in the Final Four. It's a dream come true. It probably won't hit me until I get up in the morning and read about it in the paper. The feeling I have is happiness, not satisfaction, because our goals are beyond that."

The 15th-ranked Wolverines came into the NCAA tournament as the Southeast's sixth seed and heavy underdogs. But thanks to a 12-8 spurt in overtime, they'll go to Minneapolis with a 24-8 record and a seven-game winning streak.

For Michigan coach Steve Fisher, it's been a trip of nostalgia. When he replaced Bill Frieder late in the 1988-89 season, the Wolverines made regional stops in Atlanta and Lexington, Ky., before winning the national title in the Seattle Kingdome. This year's path has taken Fisher through Atlanta and Lexington en route to the Metrodome.

"I went through this dream once," Fisher said. "We're going to try to relive it. Three years ago, I was an assistant coach nobody knew. Now, I'm making my second trip to the Final Four. I've been in the right place at the right time."

It easily could have been third-ranked Ohio State making the trip instead. The Buckeyes led 61-57 with four minutes left in regulation after an 11-0 run. They also had the ball with a chance to increase the lead.

But Ohio State's Chris Jent missed a three-pointer, and Rose answered at the other end with a 10-foot jump shot over Jamaal Brown. A minute later, Webber dunked to tie it at 61.

An 18-footer by Brown put Ohio State on top one last time, then Webber hit a follow shot for another tie with 31 seconds left.

The Buckeyes had their chance to win in regulation. They ran the clock to 10 seconds and set up with All-American Jim Jackson at the top of the circle. He drove the middle against Michigan's Ray Jackson, then lost the ball trying to dish off to Mark Baker on the wing. Jent missed a shot from the corner, and regulation expired.

"I was trying to take the ball one-on-one," Jim Jackson said. "Rose had a hold of Mark. When he saw me advance on [Ray] Jackson, he rushed up. I tried to get the ball to Mark, who was wide open on the baseline."

It was one of nine turnovers for Jackson, whose shooting slump continued. He scored 20 points on 9-for-21 shooting. In four tournament games, he shot 35 percent (27-for-77).

Overtime belonged to the Wolverines. Rose hit a fallaway jumper to get Michigan started. Jim Jackson got a fast-break dunk after a steal by Lawrence Funderburke to earn the Buckeyes' final tie at 65.

Michigan's Jimmy King, who scored 11 of his 15 in the second half, hit a three-pointer. After another miss by Jent, Rose hit two fouls for a five-point lead at the two-minute mark.

Jackson scored on a reverse layup for Ohio State before Michigan put the game away. Webber scored a layup on a nifty backdoor move and pass from Ray Jackson, and was fouled on the play. His free throw made it 73-67. After two more Ohio State misses, Rose hit two free throws with 32 seconds remaining to make it 75-67.

"The best thing we did was really hang tough together when we got disjointed," Fisher said. "It's a credit to all of our players, but Jalen is the one who kept us in sync. And Chris played like a man."

Five Michigan turnovers had contributed to Ohio State's 11-0 run late in the second half. But the Wolverines never came unglued. And although they were out-rebounded, they managed to avoid the foul problems that have troubled them all year.

"They're solid on the defensive end," Ohio State coach Randy Ayers said of the Wolverines. "They never let us get into a rhythm all night. They got rebounds when they had to. They got the big rebounds."

The victory made up for two regular-season losses to Ohio State. It also let the 6-foot-9 Webber make amends for a four-point performance in the regional semifinals, when he fouled out against Oklahoma State.

"[Saturday] night was a difficult night," said Webber, who also made the all-region team. "Usually, Jalen and I sit up all night and talk about things like the point spread. He told me not to worry about the Oklahoma State game. But I worried so much, I was real sick. I only got a couple of hours of sleep. I didn't feel well.

"The feeling didn't leave me until a couple of minutes ago."

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